The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned consumers Friday not to eat romaine lettuce of any kind harvested from the Salinas Valley, one of California’s major agricultural regions, because it may be contaminated with a particularly dangerous type of E. coli bacteria that has sickened 40 people in 16 states.
The CDC told consumers to throw away any romaine lettuce they may already have purchased. Restaurants should not serve it, stores should not sell it, and people should not buy it, if it was harvested from Salinas, in a major growing region in Northern California. It doesn’t matter if it is chopped, whole head, precut or part of a mix. Officials said to throw out lettuce if it doesn’t say where it’s grown.
Most romaine lettuce products are now labeled with a harvest location showing where they were grown.
No deaths have been reported in this E. coli outbreak, but the strain is the same one that caused outbreaks linked to leafy greens and romaine lettuce in the last two years. Just two days before Thanksgiving last year, CDC issued an unusually broad alert warning consumers to avoid eating romaine lettuce of any kind in response to an outbreak of illness from contaminated romaine.
Of those who have been sickened by E. coli 0157:H7 in this outbreak, 28 people have been hospitalized, including five who have developed a type of kidney failure. This E. coli strain produces a Shiga toxin that can enter a person’s bloodstream and wreak havoc on kidney function. Symptoms of infection include vomiting, painful cramps and diarrhea that is often bloody.
Laboratory evidence and interviews with the sickened consumers indicate that romaine lettuce from the Salinas growing region may be contaminated with this strain. Whole genome sequencing shows that the strain in romaine lettuce tested by the Maryland Health Department is closely related genetically to the E. coli found in sick people in the outbreak. That lettuce was harvested from the Salinas growing region.
On Thursday, Missa Bay LLC recalled salad products due to possible E. coli contamination. The recalled salad products were sold under different brand names and ‘‘use by’’ dates from Oct. 29, 2019 to November 1, 2019.